In 1935, the same year Bill and Dr. Bob founded Alcoholics Anonymous, Charles Shadel opened his own doors to struggling alcoholics. Shadel found a partner in Dr. Walter Voegtlin, and together they started a counter-conditioning program for the treatment of alcoholism at Shadel Hospital in Seattle. Then, in 1964, Shadel Hospital won the lottery; the CEO of the Schick Safety Razor Company checked in as a patient, and he was so pleased with his recovery that he poured millions into the Hospital’s development.
The counter-conditioning program developed in the ‘30s is still the focal point of the recovery program Schick Shadel Hospital offers; first developed for alcohol, the program now offers treatment for clients addicted to illegal and prescription drugs. Schick Shadel runs an aversion therapy program. Clients detox if necessary, proceed to inpatient for 10 days of treatment, and then return for two-day “reinforcement” visits at their 30 day and 90 day sobriety marks.
Accommodations and Food
Schick Shadel is a hospital—private and semi-private rooms can be requested for an additional fee and meals are served in a big dining room. It suggests clients bring their own pillows and there’s not a lot of extra space, but there are TV’s in every room. After check-in clients wear scrubs and robes, not street clothes and they recommend bringing slippers, flip-flops, or sandals for walking around the hospital. There is workout equipment for clients who want to exercise in their free time, however, so sneakers are appropriate in that case.
Clients might not be able to wear their favorite jeans, but here are some of the things clients can do at Schick Shadel that are awesome: order a pizza or other outside meals; use their cell phones, computers and the hospital’s free WiFi. They can bring whatever books and magazines they like, take out reading material and DVDs from the hospital library and take food and drinks from the snack room back with them to their rooms.
Outside, there’s a cozy smoking deck with a fire pit and heaters. For the non-smokers there’s a landscaped gazebo and walking path around the property for reflection and meditation.
Treatment and Staff
AA suggests that alcoholics approach their sobriety “one day at a time”; Schick Shadel claims that its conditioning program eliminates the “one day at a time” struggle. Traditional facilities for substance abuse focus on the cerebral cortex, the cognitive part of the brain, but Schick Shadel says one can’t reason his or her way out of physiological cravings. But counter conditioning works, it says. So here’s how it works. For clients without medical limitations, Schick Shadel administers emetic drugs, a.k.a. drugs that cause a physical purge. Faradic treatment (shock therapy) is used for clients who aren’t able to take the chemical conditioning (vomiting). These aversion therapy techniques are used to help patients lose cravings, and Schick Shadel believes that addicts stand a better chance of staying sober without cravings. These treatments are administered by medical and clinical staff under the supervision of a medical director whose subspecialty is in addiction psychiatry. These aversion therapies are built into the schedule with more traditional content. Clients at Schick Shadel meet for group and individual therapy where they are introduced to relaxation techniques and education about the disease of addiction. Clients also receive nutritional counseling and dual diagnosis medication as needed.
Schick Shadel claims that of all its inpatient care, clients are most nostalgic for the minimal sedation sessions or “rehabilitation interviews” offered. An anesthesiologist gives the client a sedative and then the client is asked a series of questions about their use of drugs and alcohol. Under sedation, clients are also coached to develop “permissive affirmations”—affirmations that begin with phrases like “I can” and “It’s OK to…” the goal being to reprogram the mind on a subconscious level.
Schick Shadel is not a 12-step treatment facility, but as a part of a continuing care plan it does suggest to clients some type of self-help group after leaving treatment, whether it’s AA or another sober support group. Support and group celebrations are also offered for alumni at Schick Shadel. The Continuing Care team encourages graduates of the program to stay in touch and to set-up their own local support groups.
Counter conditioning is old school. In fact, Shadel’s method is as old as AA itself. Creating an aversion in place of cravings might be a viable option for those who would strongly prefer a unique alternative to traditional 12-step programs.
Schick Shadel Hospital
12101 Ambaum Blvd Southwest
Seattle, WA 98146
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